Blackjack Lanza

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Blackjack Lanza
Lanza in 1971
Birth nameJohn Mortl Lanzo
Born(1935-10-14)October 14, 1935
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.[1]
DiedDecember 8, 2021(2021-12-08) (aged 86)
Alma materUniversity of Minnesota
Barbara Kalil
(m. 1957)
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Blackjack Lanza[2]
Jack Lanza[2]
Joe Lanza[2]
Billed height6 ft 5 in (196 cm)[2]
Billed weight253 lb (115 kg)[2]
Billed fromAlbuquerque, New Mexico[1]
Laredo, Texas[3]
Trained byVerne Gagne[2]

John Mortl Lanzo[4] (October 14, 1935 – December 8, 2021) was an American professional wrestler, better known by his ring name, Blackjack Lanza. Along with his long-term tag team partner, Blackjack Mulligan, Lanza was one-half of The Blackjacks: "black cowboy hat-wearing, cowboy boot-stomping, rugged hombres who drew money wherever they went".[5]

From the 1960s to 1980s, Lanza wrestled for promotions such as the American Wrestling Association, World Wrestling Association, and the World Wide Wrestling Federation, winning the AWA World Tag Team Championship, WWA World Tag Team Championship, and WWWF World Tag Team Championship alongside Mulligan. He is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Early life


Lanza was born on October 14, 1935, to William Lanza and Louise Mortl, and attended the University of Minnesota and worked as a sociology teacher.[4]

Professional wrestling career


Early career (1961–1962)


Lanza, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, was trained by local promoter Verne Gagne and started his wrestling career in 1961. He wrestled a few matches for NWA Mid-America in Birmingham, Alabama, under the name "Joe Lanza". In 1962, he briefly held the NWA Southern Junior Heavyweight Championship.[1][6][7]

St. Louis Wrestling Club (1962–1963, 1966–1978)


Lanza had a sporadic wrestling career with the St. Louis Wrestling Club from 1962 to 1963 and again from 1966 to 1978. In February 1969, he had a 60-minute draw against former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Gene Kiniski, solidifying his status as an "instant contender."[8]

American Wrestling Association (1962–1979)


In mid-1962, Lanza returned to Minnesota, where he joined Gagne's American Wrestling Association as Jack Lanza. He teamed with Bobby Duncum and was managed by Bobby Heenan.[9] During his time in the company, his gimmick was that of a Western cowboy.[10] The duo won the AWA World Tag Team Championship on July 23, 1976.[11] In the 1970s, Lanza and Mulligan teamed up to form The Blackjacks.[4] Lanza was a main-eventer when the duo began teaming together.[10] They were managed by Bobby Heenan.[9]

Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (1963)


In 1963, Lanza joined the Charlotte, North Carolina-based Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling promotion, wrestling as "Jack Lanza". He left the promotion the following year.[12]

World Wrestling Association (1967–1972)


Lanza wrestled for the Indianapolis, Indiana-based World Wrestling Association from 1967 to 1972.[13] Accompanied by Bobby Heenan, he defeated Wilbur Snyder for the WWA World Heavyweight Championship in September 1967. His reign lasted until August 1969, when he was defeated by Dick the Bruiser.[14] In 1971, The Blackjacks began wrestling in the WWA. In November 1971, they defeated Paul Christy and Wilbur Snyder for the WWA World Tag Team Championship. Their reign lasted until September 1972, when they lost to The Crusher and Dick the Bruiser.[15]

World Wide Wrestling Federation (1973, 1975)


Lanza debuted in the World Wide Wrestling Federation in mid-1973 as "Blackjack Lanza". His regular opponents included André the Giant, Chief Jay Strongbow, and Dean Ho. He left the promotion in December 1973.[16] In 1975, they joined the WWWF.[10] On August 26, 1975, The Blackjacks defeated Dominic DeNucci and Pat Barrett for the WWWF World Tag Team Championship.[17][4] The match was a two-out-of-three falls match, and the Blackjacks won the match by winning the first and third falls.[10] As part of his tenure in WWWF, Vince McMahon Sr. promised Lanza that he would receive one World singles title shot a month.[10]

NWA Big Time Wrestling (1974–1975)


In January 1974, The Blackjacks joined the Dallas, Texas-based NWA Big Time Wrestling promotion.[18] Later that month, they were named the NWA American Tag Team Champions. Their reign lasted until July 1974, when they were defeated by Ken Patera and Tex McKenzie.[19][20] In December 1974, he won the vacant NWA American Heavyweight Championship. He lost the championship to Fritz Von Erich later that month.[21][22]

Georgia Championship Wrestling (1979)


In 1979, Lanza wrestled for Georgia Championship Wrestling. He defeated Bob Armstrong for the NWA Georgia Television Championship in April, holding the championship until August 1979, when he was defeated by Ray Candy.[23][24]

Late career (1979–1985)


After Georgia Championship Wrestling, Lanza was inactive from wrestling until 1983. He returned to AWA American Wrestling Association where he feuded with Bobby Heenan in bunkhouse matches defeating Heenan in all of them. That same year he reunited with Blackjack Mulligan working St. Louis and AWA. The Blackjacks broke up in 1984. He retired from wrestling in 1985 and worked for WWF as a road agent.[citation needed]

Personal life


Lanza married Barbara Jean Kalil on September 28, 1957, and they lived in Douglas County, Minnesota.[4][25]



On December 8, 2021, Jim Ross announced via Twitter that Lanza had died.[26] He was 86 years old, and had been in poor health.[4]

Championships and accomplishments

Lanza with the WWWF Tag Team Championship


  1. ^ a b c Tim Hornbaker (2017). Legends of Pro Wrestling: 150 Years of Headlocks, Body Slams, and Piledrivers. Sports Publishing. p. 442. ISBN 978-1-61321-875-4.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Blackjack Lanza". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "The Blackjacks". WWE. Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Oliver, Greg (December 8, 2021). "'World's meanest wrestler' Blackjack Lanza dies". Slam! Wrestling. Archived from the original on 2021-12-08. Retrieved December 8, 2021.
  5. ^ Ross, Jim; Ross, Jan (2003). J. R.'s Cookbook: True Ringside Tales, BBQ, and Down-Home Recipes. Simon & Schuster. p. 258. ISBN 978-0-7434-6504-5.
  6. ^ Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Career - National Wrestling Alliance". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  7. ^ a b "NWA Southern Junior Heavyweight Title [Tennessee & Alabama]". April 28, 2020. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  8. ^ Meltzer, Dave (July 2003). Wrestling Observer Newsletter. p. 5.
  9. ^ a b "Hall of Fame: The Blackjacks". Archived from the original on 2007-07-03. Retrieved 2007-08-17.
  10. ^ a b c d e David Chappell. "Blackjack Mulligan interview". Mid-Atlantic Gateway. Archived from the original on 2008-04-22. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
  11. ^ "AWA World Tag Team Title History". Retrieved 2007-08-17.
  12. ^ Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Career - Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  13. ^ Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Career - World Wrestling Association". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  14. ^ Duncan, Royal; Will, Gary (1997). "WWA World Heavyweight Title History". Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  15. ^ Duncan, Royal; Will, Gary (1998). "WWA World Tag Team Title History". Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  16. ^ Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Career - World Wide Wrestling Federation". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  17. ^ "World Tag Team Title History". WWE. Retrieved 2007-08-17.
  18. ^ Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Career - Big Time Wrestling". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  19. ^ a b Duncan, Royal; Will, Gary (2006). "(Dallas) Texas: NWA American Tag Team Title [Fritz Von Erich]". Wrestling Title Histories. Archeus Communications. ISBN 978-0-9698161-5-7.
  20. ^ a b "N.W.A. American Tag Team Title". Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  21. ^ a b Duncan, Royal; Will, Gary (2000). "Texas: NWA / World Class American Heavyweight Title [Von Eric]". Wrestling Title Histories. Archeus Communications. pp. 265–266. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  22. ^ a b "NWA United States Heavyweight Title (1967-1968/05) - American Heavyweight Title (1968/05-1986/02)". Wrestling-Titles. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  23. ^ Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Career - Georgia Championship Wrestling". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  24. ^ a b c Duncan, Royal; Will, Gary (1999). "NWA Georgia Television Title History". Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  25. ^ "911022 Summons - QUT". EchoPress News. June 10, 2009. Retrieved 15 December 2021. John M. Lanzo and Barbara Jean Lanzo, husband and wife; ...
  26. ^ Middleton, Marc (December 8, 2021). "WWE Legend Blackjack Lanza Passes Away". Wrestling Inc. Archived from the original on 2021-12-08. Retrieved December 8, 2021.
  27. ^ Duncan, Royal; Will, Gary (2006). "(Texas) Dallas: NWA Texas Brass Knuckles Title". Wrestling Title Histories (4 ed.). Archeus Communications. p. 271. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  28. ^ Johnson, Mike (November 20, 2015). "PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING HALL OF FAME MOVING FROM UPSTATE NEW YORK TO TEXAS". PWInsider. Archived from the original on 2015-11-20. Retrieved November 20, 2015.